Initially, my intention was to write a lengthy post about all that is wrong with this study, but alas as so often happens several individuals and groups beat me to it with excellent reviews. So rather than bore you with a rehash, I’ll link you to the two that I found most illuminating: The Potomac-SAIS report on North Africa: Paid Analysis, Partisan Fear Mongering, Bad Policy by Jacob Mundy and Why the Facts Matter: A Response by the Saharawi Journalists and Writers Union (UPES) to “Why the Maghreb Matters." Their revelations on the blatant dishonesty of the Potomac-SAIS work are truly damning.
While these two reviews are pretty comprehensive in their debunking of the Potomac-SAIS study, there is one part of the study that epitomizes its utter intellectual bankruptcy and which, as far as I can tell, nobody has commented on -- that is their incursion into comparative self-determination. On page 14 they site several examples of what they consider to be similar self-determination cases to that of the
The people of the region must be given an opportunity for self-determination, which can take the form of autonomy (as occurred from Zanzibar to Aceh). That acceptance can be expressed in a referendum confirming the option offered. The process could begin with a formal endorsement by the interested Western states— US, UK, France, Spain—of the principle of autonomy, with a limited period of time for final negotiations to take place over its details. At the end of the upcoming fifth round of UN-sponsored negotiations between the parties, whatever its outcome, the US could pursue an effort among Security Council members to recognize autonomous status within Morocco and invite others to follow suit, much as was done for a similar option for Aceh, Cameroon, Biafra, and for a reverse option for Bosnia and for Kosovo.
This is an interesting choice. Aceh’s claims to self-determination stem primarily from the territory’s marginal integration into the Netherlands East Indies.
I admit my ignorance here of what this “reverse option” is. Why
One would think that Potomac-SAIS would have avoided mention of Kosovo like the plague. After all, it was the CANCELLATION of Kosovar autonomy by the Serbs in 1989 that in no small measure set in motion the events that led to Kosovo’s independence. If anything the Kosovo case is a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of autonomy and thus I would think greatly strengthens the Polisario case.
I’m at a bit of a loss identifying exactly which part of Cameroonian history is being held up here to support the autonomy proposal. Is it the decision of the UN in 1961 to deny the British Cameroon real self-determination (in violation of the UN Charter) and to instead offer them a choice between inclusion in
As an aside, I can’t help but add that this bizarre collection of examples dredged up in support of
What is the case of Western Sahara like and not like (in comparison to “similar” cases)?
It is not like East Timor -- Western Sahara was colonized 40 years ago and not 400.
It is not like Palestine -- It is not a separate nation.
It is not like Sudan -- Its habitants are not “separate” people (e.g. its habitants are of the same religion as Morocco)
It is not like Namibia -- It is not a trusteeship territory with the UN as an administrator.
It is like Catalonia (Spain) -- It is self-autonomous within a larger state.
It is like Aden (Yemen)
It is like Zanzibar (Tanzania)
Compared to “similar” cases, Western Sahara has a tiny population and little resources.
Western Sahara colonized 40 years ago? Not like East Timor? Like Catalonia? Didn’t Aden get INDEPENDENCE as the People's Republic of South Yemen in 1967, long before it united with North Yemen in 1990? I’ve already talked about Zanzibar. Do any of his examples make any sense?
The recommendations of the Potomac-SAIS report are based on bad history, bad facts, bad analysis, and, as I argue here, bad examples. With this level of honesty and scholarship from Commander Zartman and his cronies, it is no wonder the Obama administration is considering dumping Morocco and its autonomy plan.